January 17, 2018
The Perfect Day on the Chobe River // Chobe National Park

The Perfect Day on the Chobe River // Chobe National Park

January 17, 2018

Our first stop during our whirlwind trip (and my first Africa national park ever) was Chobe National Park in Botswana. Chobe National Park is located in northern Botswana and is Botswana's first national park, becoming a national park from a game reserve in 1967. The national park covers 4,517 square miles (Connecticut is 5,543 square miles for comparison) and is home to one of the best game viewing in all of Africa. 

From Johannesburg, I flew into Kasane Airport which sits just outside the northern most part of the national park. Lyndon was already in Kasane for a couple of days for a conference, so he was waiting for me at the airport. At this point, I have been traveling for what felt like days so I was ready to finally be "on safari". From the airport, our driver from Chobe Game Lodge picked us up in her open vehicle and we headed into Chobe National Park towards the lodge. 

According to Lyndon, I got incredibly spoiled during my first transfer. Transfers are just exactly that, they are either taking you to/from the airport or to your next lodge or destination. On this transfer, we saw elephants, giraffes, hippos, impalas for days, warthogs and even a dung beetle. We almost missed our first official game drive (the river cruise) because we stopped so many times to take pictures of all the animals. I felt like a kid excitedly pointing to animals and saying their name, "elephant!", "giraffe!"... kind of like what toddlers do when they see a dog, "puppy!" I saw more wildlife during that transfer than some of our game drives. Only bad thing was that since I thought we were just driving to our lodge, I wasn't expecting to see so many animals so my cameras were packed away in my bag. I did manage to finally unpack them towards the end and got a few shots in. 


After finally arriving at Chobe Game Lodge, we quickly went to our (gorgeous) room to freshen up a bit before our Chobe River Cruise. The Chobe River has many names, it is the Cuando River through Angola and Namibia, the Linyanti River below that, and to the east, it is the Chobe River before it turns into the Zambezi River. Chobe Game Lodge sits right on the river and offers river cruises as one of their game drives. It's a nice relaxing alternative to a typical vehicle game drive and a great way to start or end your safari vacation. 

We were on the boat with a guy from Florida, a couple (newlyweds) from Botswana, and our guide, Connie. The boat was electric which I thought was a nice touch and seated us comfortably with plenty of room to walk around to get the perfect angle. We had all kinds of drinks and snacks on board and I thought to myself, I could definitely get used to this. Even from the boat, we could see all different kinds of wildlife including elephants, African fish eagles, crocodiles, and hippos to name a few. We even saw a float of crocodiles in the water eating an elephant carcass that a pride of lions had killed. And speaking of lions, we saw a couple of lions in the distance and Connie asked us if we wanted to head back to the lodge and hop in one of the vehicles and to try to find the them... of course we all said, heck yeah! 

By this time, the sky was starting to look ominous. December, which is their summer, is known as green season. It's when it rains and everything is plush and green. When we got back to the lodge, we all hopped into the vehicle and took off to where we saw the lions from the boat. Connie was booking it through the national park, and my adrenaline was sky high as we were trying to find the lions before they head deep into the park. Connie started slowing down and to our left, behind some thick greenery, you can see a male lion just relaxing. It was hard to get a picture cause he was still pretty far away and behind a bush, but seeing my first lion in Africa was pretty exciting. We stayed there for a good while just admiring his beauty and presence... until the sky opened up.

Connie handed everyone a poncho and I quickly put mine on and used it to also cover my camera bag. While the vehicles have a "roof" on them, it's mainly used as shade so we were getting soaked. It was like that scene in Forest Gump, we were getting hit with little bitty stinging rain, big ole fat rain, and lots of rain that flew in sideways. At this point, I just kept my head down to avoid getting rain in my eyes and every turn Connie made, I would get soaked with the rain water coming off the roof. I could not wait to get back to the lodge but then Connie stopped and I heard her say "...lion". I looked up and couldn't see anything until Lyndon pointed right next to the vehicle, maybe 5 feet away, a pride of lionesses just sitting by a bush in the rain. They were so close! And not even fazed by the pouring rain. I didn't want to chance my DSLR in the rain, so I just took a couple of pictures with my iPhone and of course, posted it on Instagram Stories. 

After we got back to our room, soaking wet, a thought came to mind... this was only day one!
                      

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January 7, 2018
Photo Editing and Teeth Whitening (+ Giveaway)

Photo Editing and Teeth Whitening (+ Giveaway)

January 7, 2018

No matter what type of blogger you are, travel, lifestyle, or fashion, you know the importance of an inviting smile. As a travel blogger, I love taking pictures of beautiful buildings and landscapes but I am trying to get better at being in front of the camera and not only behind it. When it comes to teeth whitening, there are many options out there... teeth whitening offices, strips, trays, but which ones work? Which option is the right one for you? Hopefully my experience with Smile Brilliant will give you a clearer answer the next time you want to brighten your smile.   


Smile Brilliant is a teeth whitening process that gives you dentist office results right at home. It's made in the USA and it's custom made to your teeth, no more bulky trays that feels too big or too small for your mouth. The best part is that you can whiten your teeth in the comfort of your own home. I have gotten my teeth professionally whitened a couple of times in my lifetime. Once at my dentist office and another time at a whitening office in the mall (with many years in between). I saw results both times but having to make a dentist appointment or walking through a mall to get your teeth whitened was a little much.


With Smile Brilliant, they mail you everything you will need. First, they mail you all the supplies needed to make your custom fitted trays. After you mail in your dental impressions and consent card, they send you your custom made trays and all the whitening supplies. After I received my custom fitted trays and whitening supplies, I was super excited to get started.

Being a mom, having a full time job, and trying to blog and photograph part time, time is precious to me. I love that I can sit on my bed, edit pictures and whiten my teeth at the same time. Trust me, that's huge to me. You guys know how it goes, you go on a trip for so many days and when you get home, you have 1,000 pictures to go through and edit. It's the most time consuming part of blogging (to me) and if I can kill two birds with one stone, I'm all for that. 


Do you have sensitive teeth? Don't worry, I suffer from the same thing. When I go to Starbucks, I always get a "Grande Iced Caramel Macchiato with Soy and Light Ice". I think the workers at Starbucks think that I am trying to get more drink but in reality is that my teeth are sensitive to the cold. It's sensitive to everything. I tried using whitening strips back in college and had to stop after a couple of days cause my teeth and gums hurt so bad. With Smile Brilliant, not only are you in the comfort of your own home but you also get to make your own timeline and they supply you with desensitizing gel. After you whiten your teeth, you immediately use the desensitizing gel which helps a lot. I had no clue their product came with that gel so it was a nice surprise when I opened my box and saw that they thought of everything. 

After a few weeks of using my Smile Brilliant trays (not everyday cause of my sensitivity), I saw great results. Not only did I get whiter teeth but I also got done editing my Banff and Boston trip pictures. I say that's a win-win! 

Want to win $139.00 Smile Brilliant credit? All you have to do is click on this link and enter! This is open to all USA, UK, Australia, and Canadian residents! And don't worry, if you don't win, you can always save 10% on their website using the code: thejourneyofchristine10.  


* I was sent this product for review courtesy of Smile Brilliant. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own. *

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December 30, 2017
Our 2 Week Southern Africa Itinerary: Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa

Our 2 Week Southern Africa Itinerary: Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa

December 30, 2017

On December 5th, I got on a plane and started my journey to a continent I have never visited before. The journey would include a two hour flight to Atlanta, a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, an 18 hour layover, and then finally a two hour flight to Kasane, Botswana... all of this by myself. Lyndon left a week and a half earlier to visit family in South Africa and then attend a work conference in Botswana. On December 7th, I finally landed at my final destination, Kasane Airport, where Lyndon was waiting for me and where we would begin our African adventure!

But first, here's a little back story on our trip (and Lyndon). Lyndon and his brother were both born in South Africa to a South African dad and an American mom. Before moving back to the United States when Lyndon was around 6 years old, Lyndon's dad started Fish Eagle Safaris, a travel agency that specializes in African safaris in Southern and East Africa. After graduating from college, Lyndon and his brother went to work for their dad and here we are today. Lyndon, his brother, and his dad are frequently going to Africa to check out various safari camps and hotels and to make sure everything is up to par for their clients. Because of this, they are always on the move, staying at numerous different camps around the same area. I was super lucky enough to join Lyndon in December on his latest work trip and here was our crazy (but super fun) itinerary.

Keep in mind, this is not your normal African safari itinerary. If you do decided to go on safari (which I highly recommend, seriously), you won't be staying at 4 different camps in 4 nights like we did. It will be a lot more relaxed and a lot less moving around when you go!

Day 1 | Chobe Game Lodge (Serondela, Botswana)

At Kasane Airport, our driver from Chobe Game Lodge picked us up in her open safari vehicle, and that was when I knew things were about to get real. We both climbed into the vehicle (literally) and made our way to the lodge which is located inside Chobe National Park. On the transfer alone, we saw elephants, warthogs, mongooses, hippos, and the giraffes pictured above. The lodge itself is located on the Chobe River with fantastic views throughout the property. Our room was like the one pictured below and it was gorgeous. The bathroom looked like it came straight from a Restoration Hardware catalog. I wish we could have taken advantage of the plunge pool, but sadly we were only there for one night. We did get a chance to do an afternoon boat cruise turn game drive our first afternoon there and saw crocodiles, hippos, elephants and even lions in the horizon. Chobe Game Lodge has WiFi and air conditioning in their rooms which was nice to start off our trip.   

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Day 2 | Chobe Chilwero Lodge (Kasane, Botswana)

Not far from Chobe Game Lodge is Chobe Chilwero Lodge. Out of all the places we stayed at, we spent the shortest amount of time at this lodge. Shortly arriving at the lodge, we did get in an afternoon river cruise before it started pouring on everyone. We saw waterbucks, all different types of birds and tons of hippos, including one that chased our boat cause we got a little too close. I wish I had my camera ready cause it was a pretty scary awesome sight to see. Chobe Chilwero Lodge also has WiFi and air conditioning in their rooms which was nice to keep in touch with family back in Texas and of course post some pictures on Instagram

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Day 3 | Camelthorn Lodge (Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe)

After leaving Chobe Chilwero Lodge, we started our journey to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. First, we had a half hour drive to the Botswana/Zimbabwe border where we had to get our Zimbabwe visas. For Americans, bring $30 USD cash with you for your visa. From there, we drove another hour to Victoria Falls so our driver could refuel. He dropped us off at The Victoria Falls Hotel while he went to fill up. It was fun to do a quick walk around knowing we would be at the same hotel a week later. After leaving Victoria Falls, we drove another 2 hours to Dete, Zimbabwe to the train station there. Lyndon and I were both unsure about the "train" that was supposed to take us to our next camp but when the adorable single railcar showed up, we both got super excited. Imvelo Safari Lodges (the parent company of Camelthorn Lodge and Bomani Tented Lodge) uses this railcar named "The Elephant Express" as a transfer method for their two camps in the southern part of Hwange National Park. It combines a transfer with an afternoon game drive since the railroad tracks runs along the edge of Hwange National Park and you can spot numerous wildlife from the railcar. We saw sables, elephants, kudus, and even a lion during our ride. Camelthorn Lodge sits on community land right outside the national park and employs a lot of people from the community. Camelthorn does offer WiFi in the lobby but there are only fans in the rooms. While the two properties in Chobe National Park were the start of our safari, Camelthorn was the start of our time in the true African bush. No air conditioning, not another property for miles and miles, spotty WiFi, and spiders and lizards crawling around in your room is the norm here and it's great. 

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Day 4 | Bomani Tented Lodge (Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe)

Bomani Tented Lodge is the second Imvelo camp we stayed at and it's definitely the more "adventurous" out of the two. Our room was a large tent (like many other camps in the area) but our sink, shower and toilet were outside the tent. It was covered but it was definitely opened to the outside and at any given time, you could find lizards and frogs hanging out by the sink and shower. I love animals but I'm not really a fan of small critters that can jump on me, so I had Lyndon escort the lizards and frogs outside before I needed to use the bathroom. This was a problem though cause I have to use the restroom at least once or twice during the night and at Camelthorn and Bomani, they turn off their generator around 10:30 in the evening so a. I had to use the restroom using a flashlight, and b. I was trying not to spot any critters while out there. Our game drives during our stay at the Imvelo camps were excellent and our guide was great! We even did a walking safari during our stay at Bomani and that is definitely a story to tell... but in a later post. The rooms do not have air conditioning and their WiFi was down while we were there but even when it's up, it's only available in the lobby.   

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Day 5 and 6 | Linkwasha Lodge (Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe)

Not too far from Camelthorn and Bomani lies three Wilderness Safaris' camps, Linkwasha, Davison's, and Little Makalolo, and we were lucky enough to experience all three. Out of the three though, Linkwasha was definitely my favorite, actually it was my favorite camp during our entire trip. Granted it was also the nicest camp we stayed at in terms of luxury, but it was also the camp we were staying at when we got engaged! Linkwasha was also the first camp we got to stay two nights at which was nice and gave us a chance to do laundry and "unpack" a little. The wildlife we saw during our stay at Linkwasha was insane including an elephant eating right by our dinner table and later drinking from the swimming pool, a pack of African painted dogs killed an impala right outside our tent, and that doesn't include all the animals we saw during our game drives. One evening, we even heard an elephant (probably the same one) eating right outside our tent and later bump into it as he was making his way around. I was seriously waiting for this huge elephant to come busting through our canvas tent but it never happened. The tents at Linkwasha are huge and offer air conditioning inside them but don't expect your tent to get super cold in the summers cause it's still a tent and there's really nothing keeping the cold air inside. And with all Wilderness Safaris camps, there is no WiFi at Linkwasha.     

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Day 7 | Davison's Camp (Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe)

If Linkwasha is luxury, Davison's Camp is definitely for the more adventurous types. The tents are a lot more rugged but still decorated nicely inside. The bathroom is under the same tent as the bedroom unlike at Bomani, but it is under the same tent as the bedroom as in there's no door to the toilet or shower. If you're shy about going to the bathroom in front of someone, you might want to stay at Linkwasha or at Little Makalolo. We did see the most amazing sunrise at Davison's Camp, and a super fast baboon spider kept us alert during dinner one night. Lyndon thought he saw a mouse and this huge baboon spider came charging at us. Let's just say, I ate the rest of my dinner with my legs off the ground. The coolest part about Davison's Camp was our guide. It was the same guide Lyndon had while he stayed at Hwange 10 years ago! And the guide remembered Lyndon and his brother! That made our stay at Davison's. Each tent has a fan inside but no air conditioning or WiFi at Davison's Camp.   

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Day 8 | Little Makalolo Camp (Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe)

In terms of price and luxury, Little Makalolo is right in between Linkwasha and Davison's Camp. We got a chance to stay in their Honeymoon Suite and it was super nice and equipped with an indoor and outdoor shower, and even an outdoor bathtub. And the toilet was in it's own separate room! Like Davison's, Little Makalolo only offer fans in the room and no WiFi, and there are actually no outlets in the rooms so we had to charge our phones and camera batteries in the main area. They put up all the power strips in the evenings though cause a resident hyena comes by at night and takes all the cords and even all the chair cushions, so they put everything up in the evenings. Underneath the boardwalk right next to our tent, we found a dwarf mongoose family which put my mind at ease cause they eat snakes, lizards and rodents. From our tent, we had the best view of the watering hole and at one point during the afternoon, a herd of elephants stopped by for a quick drink. Little Makalolo also has a log pile hide right next to their watering hole which is a great way to get up close and personal with elephants and other animals. This was our last stop during the safari portion of our trip and it was bittersweet. On one hand, we were both ready to sleep in late, find some WiFi, and not sweat, but on the other hand, we were going to miss all the animals and awesome guides we met along the way. 

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Day 9 | Batonka Guest Lodge (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

By the time we got to Batonka, Lyndon and I were both spent. We just spent over a week on safari (even longer for Lyndon) and was in desperate need of air conditioning and WiFi. After an hour flight via a 5-passenger Cessna, we landed in Victoria Falls and headed straight to Batonka Guest Lodge where we spent the next 24 hours and didn't leave the property once. We did hit up the pool once and ate all our meals at the hotel restaurant but it was so nice to just veg out for a day. We knew we had another day in Victoria Falls the next day and would do all the sightseeing then, so we spent most of the time just watching TV (this was the first room we stayed at together with a TV in it), checking social media to see if we missed anything major, texting friends and family, and sleeping! Our room was spacious and had a nice big bathroom with lots of lighting, something the bathrooms at the camps didn't really offer.     

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Day 10 | The Victoria Falls Hotel (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

The Victoria Falls Hotel was built by the British in 1904 and today it is a bustling luxury hotel with fantastic views of Victoria Falls. Lyndon and I were here earlier in our trip, but just for half an hour during our pit stop to Hwange National Park. The hotel has over 150 rooms and suites and three restaurants. They also have a really nice pool area where you can order drinks and food. Even though we got engaged during our stay at Linkwasha many days prior, Lyndon and I didn't really get a chance to take a nice post engagement picture cause we never had air conditioning and I was sweating the entire time. The Victoria Falls Hotel was our chance to get "dolled up", put on some make up and take a nice decent picture. After our mini photoshoot with my tripod and remote shutter, we received a call in our room that we had a helicopter tour planned and our driver was there to pick us up. This was a complete surprise to us cause we never planned a helicopter tour of Victoria Falls (even though we heard it was fantastic), so we grabbed our cameras and made our way down to the lobby. The helicopter tour was amazing! It's a great way to see Victoria Falls and see just how massive it really is. And as it turns out, the tour was an engagement gift from Wilderness Safaris. What a great gift and surprise!   

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Day 11 and 12 | Four Rosmead (Cape Town, South Africa)

After a short flight from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, we landed in Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is currently going through a massive water shortage and could be the first major city in the world to run out of water. Even with all of this, I was super excited to visit "one of the most beautiful cities in the world". The Four Rosmead is like a house turned hotel, and it is absolutely gorgeous. In the main part of the hotel, there's a living area, dining area, kitchen and office. In the "backyard", there's a pool (which was not in use cause of the draught) and two rooms including our room. On the side of the house, there are more rooms and a side courtyard, and in the house itself, there are rooms upstairs. From the back of the house, you can see Lion's Head and just like that this place just went from amazing to fantastic. Our room was super nice with high ceilings and a super comfy bed. The only downside was the water shortage so we were limited to two minute showers and I felt guilty just washing my hands. Hopefully, a huge rainstorm will head their way or they need to find a solution soon. But draught or no draught, this hotel is definitely a gem in Cape Town.   

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Day 13 | The Peech Boutique Hotel (Johannesburg, South Africa)

This was our last night during our amazing trip. We flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg and landed late in the evening so when we arrived at The Peech, we couldn't really see anything. Our room was very nice and large but we couldn't really see any of the property cause it was so dark. The next morning, we woke up and headed to breakfast and saw how lush and pretty everything outside was. They even had a garden in one part of the hotel. While we didn't spend much time at the hotel, it was a nice place to spend our last night in Africa and sure beats staying at the airport. Lyndon's uncle picked us up after breakfast, and we got to spend some time with him and his girlfriend before our flight back to the United States (17 hours to Atlanta!). I really didn't get a chance to see Johannesburg (or Pretoria) and would love to come back one day and explore more of where Lyndon spent his first five years of his life. I know there are plenty of hotels in Johannesburg, but I would definitely love to go back to The Peech especially since I didn't feel like we got to stay there long.     

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To say we had an amazing trip would be an understatement. I would like to thank Lyndon's family for such an amazing opportunity, my first trip to Africa is an experience I will never forget. Next time, I would love to bring Aiden. Seeing his reaction to all the animals would be half the fun.

Shameless plug time. If you are interested in going to Southern or East Africa, shoot me an email (found on my contact page), and I can get you in contact with Lyndon. The majority of camps listed above do not allow direct bookings and require you go through a travel agent and I just so happen to know a pretty good one. It's no extra cost to you and they do all the work! Seriously, I knew I would enjoy Africa and going on safari but it was better than what I imagined. It should definitely be on everyone's bucket list.

Once I finish going through all my photographs (5,000+), I will start posting about our game drives and all the animals we saw. According to Lyndon, I was super spoiled and saw things that other people don't even get to see in 2 or 3 trips back to Africa. Maybe it was beginner's luck, whatever it was, I'm not complaining!


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